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Infection due to Streptococcus pneumoniae (Pneumococcus) (Pnc) is an important cause of invasive clinical manifestations such as meningitis, septicaemia and pneumonia, particularly in young children and the elderly. A 23-valent polysaccharide Pnc vaccine (PPV) has been available for many years and a 7-valent conjugate Pnc vaccine (PCV) has been licensed since 2001 in Europe. As part of a European Union (EU) funded project on pneumococcal disease (Pnc-EURO), a questionnaire was distributed to all 15 EU member states, Switzerland, Norway and the 10 accession countries in 2003 to ascertain current pneumococcal vaccination policy. Twenty three of the 27 target countries, constituting the current European Union (plus Norway and Switzerland), completed the questionnaire. PPV was licensed in 22 of the 23 responding countries and was in the official recommendations of 21. In all the 20/21 countries for which information was available, risk groups at higher risk of infection were targeted. The number of risk groups targeted ranged from one to 12. At least 17 countries recommend that PPV be administered to all those >65 years of age (in three countries, to those over 60 years of age). Thirteen countries had developed national recommendations for PCV in 2003. No country recommended mass infant immunisation at that time, but rather targeted specific risk groups (between 1 and 11), particularly children with asplenia (n=13) and HIV infection (n=12). PCV use was restricted to children under two years of age in seven countries, and in four countries to children under five years of age. Future decisions on use of pneumococcal vaccines in Europe will be decided on the basis of several factors including: local disease burden; the predicted impact of any universal programme, particularly the importance of serotype replacement and herd immunity (indirect protection to the unvaccinated population); the effectiveness of reduced dose schedules, and vaccine cost. Indeed, at least one country, Luxembourg, has since implemented a universal infant PCV immunisation policy.


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